Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Eyewitness evidence is not always reliable

Eyewitness testimony frequently provides information for arresting and charging someone of a crime. This testimony is also used by the prosecutor in an attempt to convict someone of a crime. These convictions can have dire consequences on future freedoms, employment, housing and life events. Therefore, it is imperative that eyewitness evidence be accurate and reliable. The accuracy and reliability depends upon how the government obtains that eyewitness testimony.
Recent DNA cases have shown the importance and the need for accurate and reliable eyewitness evidence. When recent DNA science has shown the convicted person did not commit the crime, the eyewitness testimony that convicted the person was shown to be fallible. Eyewitnesses do make mistakes in recalling and interpreting events. The human memory does have flaws.
These flaws are further emphasized by an investigator’s cues such as, body language, tone of voice, eye movement and other non verbal indicators. Each cue will negatively impact the reliability of eyewitness evidence. One way to avoid such cues is for investigators to use a “blind” procedure when obtaining eyewitness testimony. Many departments, or investigators, do not use these blind methods. There are various reasons the blind method is not used, but the most common is time. Using the blind methods requires more time and effort.

If you are accused of a crime, it is important that you have a lawyer review all the evidence in your case to make sure all proper procedures were followed. For a free consultation and review of the accusations against you, contact Patrick W. Flanagan at:




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